Final Destination scribe Jeffrey Reddick returns to his horror roots with 2016's Dead Awake, a wildly mediocre look at laughably archaic explanations surrounding sleep paralysis played out in the modern day. Many suffer from the real-life condition, which finds them unable to move upon waking; at some point in history, people decided that, obviously, demons and/or hags were sitting on their chests, probably choking them to death.

Turns out it's real—so long as you believe—and young Kate is one such believer. A recovering addict (played by Jocelin Donahue, whom we promise you don't know), Kate keeps a detailed dream journal of her experiences with the sleep demon/hag. She reaches out for help, but no one believes her because, y'know, apparently addicts don't deserve compassion. Even her twin sister Beth (also played by Donahue) and man-bunned, hipster-artist boyfriend (Jesse Bradford) won't take her side, and after Tank Girl herself (Lori Petty) makes an appearance as some heartless sleep doctor who just won't heed the warning signs because she's a medical doctor and c'mon already, it's generally agreed that Kate is probably just hallucinating.

But, of course, she's not, and the demon starts visiting basically anyone and everyone it can. Fueled by the evil version of faith, it kills people because it likes to, or something … it's never made clear, and the vast majority of Dead Awake finds Donahue making "I'm scared!" faces and trying to stay awake like some boring version of Nightmare on Elm Street, while various no-name over-actors enter her orbit just long enough to be bad at movies.

Unless your name is Guillermo del Toro and you've worked out how to design terrifying monsters worth seeing onscreen, the concept of less-is-more should be the ultimate rule in certain types of horror films. Nothing is scarier than the thing you haven't seen yet, and the more Dead Awake wears on, the less scary it becomes. In fact, we kinda started rooting for the demon.


+ Indie horror is objectively cool
- It's just a pretty bad movie


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Dead Awake
Directed by Phillip Guzman
With Donahue, Bradford and Petty
Jean Cocteau Cinema,
99 min